Category: Pokemon

10 Ancient animals I want to see as Pokemon

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet released a few weeks ago and the newest cohort of Pocket Monsters have some great additions to the franchise. Aside from the fact we finally got a dolphin Pokemon and I was proven wrong, I particularly like Tatsugiri, Glimmora, and Lokix. Still, with the number of Pokemon finally cracking 1,000, I’m dissatisfied that some of my favourite inspirations from the natural world haven’t been made into Pokemon.

1. Gorgonopsid

Gorgonopsid. Credit: Dmitry Bogdanov
Credit: Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Middle to Upper Permian (265-252mya)
  • Clade: Theraspid
  • Closest living relatives: Modern mammals

I’ve always been more of a fan of the neither fish nor fowl Pokemon designs. Think Nidoking, Breloom, and Shiftry. They aren’t immediately associated with a certain animal. Gorgonopsids are the real-life equivalent; they’re somewhere in between reptiles and mammals. I could see Game Freak incorporating this animal with themes from Chinese pig-dragon artifacts, the Indian makara, or the Tibetan snow lion into a cool dark- or fire-type Pokemon.

2. Chalicothere

Chalicothere. Credit: DiBgd
Credit: DiBgd, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Middle Eocene to early Pleistocene (48.6-1.8mya)
  • Clade: Perissodactyla
  • Closest living relatives: Horses, tapirs, rhinos

Chalicotheres are like horses that walk like gorillas. They probably used their huge front claws to grab tree branches into their mouths. They look kind of goofy but they’re one of my favourite prehistoric creatures. Still, combined with motifs from the yeti or qilin, the chalicothere could make for a well-designed Pokemon.

3. Dunkleosteus

Dukleosteus fossil. Credit: Zachi Evenor
Credit: Zachi Evenor, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Devonian (382-358mya)
  • Clade: Placoderms
  • Closest living relatives: Modern fish

Yes, technically we already have Pokemon inspired by dunkleosteus – Dracovish and Arctovish. But until we get the proper full forms of all the Galarian fossil Pokemon, I will keep advocating for a dunkleosteus Pokemon. This shark-like placoderm fish had a mouth made of plate-like teeth and is calculated to have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom. To make it less like Dracovish and Arctovish, I could see inspiration from the Japanese isonade, a sea monster based on thresher sharks. Covered in plates of spiky armour, dunkleosteus would make a cool water/steel Pokemon.

4. Eurypterid

Eurypterid fossil. Credit: H Zell
Credit: H. Zell, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Middle Ordivician to Late Permian (467.3 to 251.9mya)
  • Clade: Chelicerata
  • Closest living relatives: Arachnids, horseshoe crabs

Consisting of some of the largest arthropods to ever exist, eurypterids were probably one of the top predators of their time. I have a very specific idea of how I’d want a eurypterid Pokemon. Inspired by heikegani, crabs with samurai faces on their carapaces, I could see the eurypterid being a fighting-type Pokemon with the paddles turned into boxing gloves.

Examples of heikegani. Credit: Tali Landsman
Credit: Tali Landsman

5. Basilosaurus

Basilosaurus. Credit: Carl Buell
Credit: Carl Buell via NYIT
  • Time range: Eocene (41.3-33.9mya)
  • Clade: Cetaceans
  • Closest living relatives: Whales

Despite its name meaning “king lizard”, basilosaurus is one of the earliest whales. I think it has that nondescript monster-like quality that would make for a good Pokemon. I couldn’t think of a particularly good theme to base a Pokemon on. Since the basilosaurus is very serpentine, nagas wouldn’t be a bad idea. Since we have a nigiri Pokemon now, having a maki roll basilosaurus evolution could be fun too.

6. Livyatan

Credit: Ghedoghedo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Miocene (9.9-8.9mya)
  • Clade: Cetaceans
  • Closest living relatives: Sperm whales

Known colloquially as the killer sperm whale, this cetacean was contemporaneous with the infamous megalodon and probably fought for the same food source. As a Pokemon, I imagine a livyatan to take inspiration from torpedos and the Yamal icebreaker ship. As a steel type, I think this could be a really cool looking Pokemon.

The Yamal icebreaker. Credit: Pink floyd88 a
The Yamal. Credit: Pink floyd88 a, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Terror Bird

Credit: Lucas Lima via Earth Archives
  • Time range: Paleocene to late Pleistocene (62-0.1mya)
  • Clade: Cariamiformes
  • Closest living relatives: Seriemas

Terror birds were some of the coolest extinct birds – right up there with moas and pelagornis. Terror birds would make for a cool Pokemon as is but maybe Game Freak could add a Baba Yaga hut motif to make it a bit more interesting?

8. Pliosaur

Credit: dmitrchel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Late Jurassic (155.7-147mya)
  • Clade: Plesiosauria
  • Closest living relatives: Modern reptiles

We’ve had a plesiosaur Pokemon in Lapras since generation 1; it’s about time for the pleseiosaur’s cousin, the pliosaur! Although Walking with the Dinosaurs’s rendition of Liopleurodon is considered exaggerated now, I remember being awed by the beast while watching the documentary. To subvert the expectation that a pliosaur pokemon would be a water type, it’d be interesting to see it take parts from space ships like Star Wars’s X-Wing.

9. Therizinosaur

Credit: PaleoNeolitic, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Late Cretaceous (70mya)
  • Clade: Theropods
  • Closest living relatives: Modern birds

Imagine a dinosaur with Freddy Kreuger claws that that’s pretty much therizinosaurs. If the long claws remind you of those of chalicotheres, that’s because they probably served the same purpose in grabbing vegetation. A therizinosaur Pokemon would be a ghost type and really fall into the Freddy Kreuger likeness. I can see it coloured as if it’s dressed as a skeleton a la Halloween or Dia de los Muertos.

10. Glyptodont

Glyptodonts. Credit: Robert Bruce Horsfall
Credit: Robert Bruce Horsfall via Wikimedia Commons
  • Time range: Eocene to late Pleistocene (48-0.01mya)
  • Clade: Cingulata
  • Closest living relatives: Armadillos

Given Japan’s obsession with baseball, it’s a wonder we still haven’t had a Pokemon inspired by the sport. A glyptodont would be the perfect for a baseball Pocket Monster. Bat-like tail? Check. Shell that looks like a batting helmet? Check. Then, make it crouching like a catcher and have it have baseball mitt like hands. All it needs is an armadillo-like pre-evolution that rolls up like a baseball and the the idea makes itself. Game Freak, make it happen.

Why There Will Never Be A Dolphin Pokemon

Picture of dolphins swimming
Credit: The Miscellanista / Unsplash

***Update: it turns out I was wrong! Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will feature the series’ first dolphin Pokemon: Finizen and Palafin.

The announcement of the newest Pokemon games last week marks the beginning of the ninth generation of Pokemon and a new assortment of elemental creatures to catch and battle. In anticipation for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, Pokemon fans around the world are wishing for new additions they’d like to see added to the current roster of 905. Many current Pokemon are based on real-life animals so it makes sense that fans want a full menagerie in their Pokedexes.

One of the most popular requests is for there to be a dolphin Pokemon and it’s astounding there isn’t one already. Gorebyss looks kind of a dolphin but I don’t really think it is. To me, it’s more of a cross between a pipefish and an oarfish. That would explain why it’s Pokedex entries say it resides in the deep sea, which dolphins do not. There’s also Kyogre which is based on an orca. Although orcas are technically dolphins (they’re the largest species of the dolphin family), they aren’t what you think of first when you imagine your typical dolphin. Pokemon fans are just asking for a water/psychic or water/fairy bottlenose dolphin, simple enough right? While many fans may attribute the lack of a dolphin Pokemon to a disobedient Gamefreak, there’s actually a more sinister reason.

An illustration of an oarfish
Real-life Pokedex entry: The oarfish is a fish found in the ocean depths. It is so rare that it has been rarely caught alive and it is believed to be the inspiration for sea serpent myths. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Japan’s Cetacean Fixation

Japan has a long history of whaling. While the practice began in the 12th century, it did not reach its full stride until the turn of the 20th century when the Japanese adopted modern whaling technologies from Norway. Commerical whaling continued until the International Whaling Comission’s moratorium in 1986. However, Japan still continued to hunt whales for the sake of scientific research.

Although the practice garnered heavy criticism internationally, the Japanese defended the practice by asserting it is for the sake of scientific research and maintaining cultural heritage. Because most of the world’s whales are endangered, the Japanese government claimed this research is critical for studying the status of their populations. However, those in the international sphere said Japan was merely conducting commercial whaling under the guise of research. In 2018, Japan left the International Whaling Comission and has resumed commercial whaling in its territorial waters.

Historic Japanese manuscript scroll depicting whaling in Taiji
Historic Japanese manuscript scroll depicting whaling in Taiji. Credit: Tennojiya Shinsuke owned (April 1857), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dolphins in Japan

Of the many historic whaling towns in Japan, the most well-known is Taiji in the Wakayama prefecture. Taiji was a hub for Japanese whaling. Although the town’s whaling operations are much smaller than before, its tradition and history with dolphins is alive and well. Taiji celebrates an annual dolphin drive in which hundreds of dolphins are corralled into a shallow cove to be captured or slaughtered. Usually, after a long day’s work of trapping the dolphins, the animals are left to suffer overnight before they are killed. Supposedly, this is because the meat tastes better that way but it is more likely that killing dolphins in the early morning allows the fishermen to conceal the bloodbath.

Taiji looks like a typical Japanese fishing town.
Taiji looks like a typical Japanese fishing town.
Credit: BD Padgett, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Officially, the reason for the dolphin drives is for dolphin meat. However, the consumption of dolphin meat in Japan has been declining and the meat is frequently labelled as whale meat to garner a higher price. The biomagnification of mercury in seafood has also raised health concerns about eating dolphin meat. Instead, there are also two other, more prominent reasons for this practice. For one, selling live dolphins to aquariums has become increasingly lucrative. Cetacean captivity is a controversial topic with several concerns over the ethics of keeping intelligent animals, the adequacy of aquarium facilities, and the usefulness of captive cetacean research.

The second reason is for “pest control”. Japanese cuisine is well-known for its seafood (think sushi, sashimi, and nigiri at your local Japanese restaurant). In the face of depleting world fisheries, Japanese fishermen blame dolphins for their reduced catches. The idea is that because dolphins eat fish, they are in direct competition with Japan’s appetite for seafood. The Japanese government perpetuates this belief by readily issuing hunting permits for these animals. Furthermore, there is an active coverup of these dolphin drives – the drives are heavily monitored by police, foreigners are looked at with suspicion in Taiji, and the slaughters are done covered in tarps to avoid any pictures and video taken of the event. Unfortunately, unlike whales, there is no international body to regulate killing dolphins.

It should be noted that Taiji is not the only place in the world that participates in dolphin drives. Places like the Solomon Islands and Faroe Islands also hunt dolphins but the Taiji dolphin drive is one of the world’s largest hunts. Because of its size, it has received the most attention and backlash. Additionally, with its hidden, more controversial reasons for the drive, Taiji is a big target for activism and objection.

No Dolphin Pokemon

The multi-faceted controversy of dolphins and Japan, from animal welfare to environmental issues to cultural heritage, is a really sticky situation. I suspect this is why we don’t have a dolphin Pokemon yet and will probably never get one. The Pokedex does have whale Pokemon; both Wailord and its preevolution, Wailmer, resemble blue whales. Therefore, I don’t think the issue is whaling in general. Instead, the controversial Taiji dolphin drive may explain why we still don’t have a dolphin Pokemon.

It is well known Pokemon likes to avoid controversy. Porygon hasn’t appeared in the anime since that one episode. Jynx has been officially purple since Generation 3. Gambling has been absent from the main series games since Generation 5. For a franchise as beloved as Pokemon, a potential controversy with a dolphin Pokemon may not be worth the satisfaction of millions of fans around the world. Sorry Pokemon fans – until Taiji’s cruel and controversial practice comes to an end, we won’t be getting a dolphin Pokemon anytime soon.

For further reading, please check out the Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project and the Dolphin Project.

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